With a "don't leave me" glare in his eyes, 5-year-old Michael Fitzgerald had something akin to a death grip on his mother's leg. And it wasn't even his first day of school.
"He's a little nervous," said his mother, Mary Fitzgerald. "That's why he's trying to pull me out the door."
Mrs. Fitzgerald brought Michael along to Broadneck Elementary School yesterday to see his 7-year-old sister, Corinne, off to the second grade, and his 6-year-old brother, Garrett, off to the first grade. Michael is to start kindergarten classes later this week.
"He does not want to be here," Mrs. Fitzgerald said. "But Wednesday my husband is taking off so [Michael will] have Mommy and Daddy with him for the conferences. By the time he starts Thursday he should be fine."
Most of the students arriving for the first day of classes at Broadneck weren't quite as apprehensive as Michael about the start of school. Yet some small faces displayed emotions that ranged from fear to excitement.
And students weren't the only ones excited about the start of school, said fourth-grade teacher Jackie Williams.
"Even teachers have the same types of feelings," she said. "Some of us are experiencing a few butterflies. Some of us have some stage fright.
"I try and make the students understand my perspective. I tell them I understand what they're going through. If you make them understand your perspective, then I think they understand who you are a whole lot better," she explained.
In addition to understanding teachers better, students also will be embarking on a new venture this school year. In honor of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas, Broadneck students will be participating in the Discover New WORLDS program.
WORLDS encourages students to explore new wonders, observe to discover new information, remember to display good citizenship qualities, learn and work to do their best in school, dream to be the best they can be and try to succeed and excel at all levels.
"What we're trying to do is emphasize thinking skills," said Assistant Principal Teresa Sacchetti. "The students who demonstrate those thinking skills will have their name announced over the intercom as the student of the week."
Staff members wearing little, yellow paper sailboats in their lapels greeted their students. Blue balloons painted with maps of the world decorated the school and individual classrooms were decorated to illustrate how each student would be participating in the new program.
"We will be using these words in every day participation in class," Mrs. Williams promised. "For instance, I tell the students if Christopher Columbus didn't have a dream he wouldn't have succeeded in his goal.
"So many kids come in lamenting the end of summer. When you have a theme like this one they internalize it and work toward their goal, like being the student of the week. Having a theme just makes it easier," she concluded.